Is salivary pH a marker of depression among older spousal caregivers for cancer patients?

Rabia Khalaila, Miri Cohen, Jamal Zidan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The pH in saliva, which decreases due to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, may serve as a biomarker of psychological distress in caregivers but has rarely been studied in this context. The aims are to examine the levels of salivary pH as a possible biomarker of depression among caregivers and whether depression mediates the association between caregiving status (cancer caregivers vs. non-cancer caregivers) and pH levels. Cross-sectional data were collected from 68 consecutive-sampled spouses of cancer patients, and 42 age-matched individuals. Lower levels of pH saliva were found among caregivers of cancer patients than in the comparison group. Being a caregiver, poor subjective health, higher depression, and lower mastery predicted lower pH levels. In addition, depression mediated the associations of mastery with pH levels. The study provides preliminary evidence that salivary pH may serve as an easily tested indicator of the stress of caregiving and its related depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-80
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2014


  • Biomarkers
  • Mastery
  • Mental health
  • pH saliva

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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